The streaming industry has been booming during the last few years. If 10-15 years ago we could access video streams only from PC and laptops, now we can actively watch live broadcasts right from our portable devices using mobile service data. The adoption of 4G was crucial for this change, as well as the development of the video streaming industry.
If you work within the EdTech or e-commerce ecosystems, making your streams and videos as accessible as possible is probably one of your major goals. Luckily, if you record a video in a certain format, it can be viewed on any device with any codec, thanks to modern day transcoding technology.
What is video transcoding
First of all, we need to talk about the difference between video transcoding and video encoding. These two different technologies serve the same purpose ‒ to make video content more accessible to the end viewer ‒ but differ in their implementation methods.
Video transcoding allows switching from one video encoding format to another, including video data files. This way the viewer doesn’t need to install any additional software or codec to watch the stream. The purpose of transcoding is to convert the video you’re broadcasting to an acceptable format and quality on the viewer’s side ‒ all in real-time. This ultimately results in a higher number of viewers. Encoding achieves the same, but the technology is a bit different ‒ we’ll cover the differences between both later and in a separate article we’ll dive further into the topic of encoding.
Let’s say for example that you stream in AVI format, and the viewer’s PC doesn’t have enough bandwidth to process the incoming video. All your viewer will see in this case is the “buffering” circle (all while your patience starts to disappear). However, there are ways to prevent that.
Technically speaking, the transcoding process first decodes the original video, reformats it, and then re-encodes it into a more accessible format.
The transcoding technology basically converts your video into different time-aligning streaming clips all while converting the audio track to AAC (Advanced Audio Coding). This way the stream becomes accessible to anyone with a stable internet connection and with any kind of device: PC, Mac, laptop, mobile, tab. Buffering smaller compressed clips is way easier even with a weak internet connection, and viewers will be able to choose the quality of the video in order to escape the long buffering of the original high-quality video.
There are generally three types of transcoding:
- Lossless-to-lossless: transcoding a file in the lossless format without losing the video quality. The size of the final file will still be big, so it’s not optimal for videos and streams that have the element of interactivity;
- Lossy-to-lossy: when as file has been previously decreased in size. The final file is smaller in size, but at the same time you will lose even more from the quality. This method is useful when you want to decrease the bitrate, save storage and the quality won't matter that much;
- Lossless-to-lossy: with this method less quality is lost compared to lossy-to-lossy while the file size is still small enough for most portable devices. To achieve this method you should keep losslessly compressed files archived.
What about lossy-to-lossless? Well, that is not not really feasible. Once the quality is lost during the transcoding process it is not possible to be recovered.
As you can see, transcoding is an inherently lossy process unless you are ready to sacrifice accessibility for quality.
What to use: transcoding or encoding?
Unlike transcoding, the encoding process creates an entirely different file format by compressing the raw file instead of converting one and chopping it into many clips.
The main difference in practice is in the way these technologies work. Transcoding decodes, creates multiple new files, and encodes them, while encoding simply changes the file format.
If you need something that can be ultimately used both for live video streaming and creating on-demand video content, transcoding suits your needs the best. Encoding will work great only for live streaming purposes.
Why do you need transcoding and which formats to choose?
Regardless of the industry you're in, you probably want your videos to reach as many people as possible. This is especially important when it comes to e-commerce, EdTech and streaming sectors‒ there’s always a need for your video to be easily viewed on any device. The better the universal compatibility, the wider audience you will reach.
So, how do you transcode your videos and broadcasts? If you want to reach as many people as possible, you have to ensure playback compatibility so your viewers won’t face the never-ending buffering wait.
To transcode your videos, you can use different converters like Adobe Express ‒ most of them are free. As practice shows, the most versatile video formats are MP4 and MOV ‒ but be aware that MOV is a format used mainly on devices with the QuickTime framework. If you know that your intended audience uses Apple devices or has QuickTime codecs installed on their PC, you can freely use MOV. If you don’t have such data or know about Windows or Android preferences, the best option would be to choose the MP4 video file format as it provides good compression without losing much quality.
However, the process of manually transcoding video per video can be lengthy and annoying. If you are frequently streaming or storing hundreds of videos, manually converting each individual video can be a mundane task. You can rather opt for a professional over-the-top (OTT) service where you can easily stream and share videos without any hassle, thus saving you time, energy and money. By using a professional streaming platform you simply upload or stream and share the link with your audience.
For example, with us at Kinescope you can securely upload thousands of videos online due to our private infrastructure, livestream in HD with the option of creating one-time or recurring events, edit directly within the player, analyze your videos' performance, attach chapter in the video and even customize the player according to your branding. Best of all - your content will be encrypted by modern digital rights management (DRM) system ensuring only the audience you choose can have access to the videos. Sign up below and explore our vast number of options for your business.
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